On Racism, Rivalries, Idiots, and Bill Murray

It’s Monday on Bryce’s Ramblings, and usually that would mean a Vodnik Chapter Commentary. But not this Monday, because I’ve got something to say to you people, and it’s gotta be said today. Why today? Because the BYU/Utah game was Saturday evening. Because we’re coming into the home stretch of Major League Baseball games. Because the November elections are right around the corner.

And because I’ve had enough of all of it.

Yes, BYU lost the big rivalry game–something that BYU has been very good at doing (losing the big rivalry game) for the last while. Why do we lose? I have no idea. It seems like typically Utah is far more pumped up to play the game than we are. But I’m just watching from the comfort of a living room, so I really don’t know. I *do* know what I would do to motivate the team next year–if we were playing Utah, which we’re not. I would sit them all down, and show them this movie clip.

In fact, this is a clip that I think all sports fans would do well to watch and understand–and be forced to keep watching until they understand. Because do you know what?

It just doesn’t matter.

It matters to the players, yes. But what really doesn’t matter is what sports team you support. You’re not a better person than anyone else because the team whose logo is emblazoned on your sweatshirt happened to beat a team whose logo is emblazoned on that other guy’s sweatshirt. It doesn’t grant you the ability to fly, or laser vision, or even a lifetime pass to cut in line at water parks. You’re still just you.

At Saturday’s game at Utah, my little sister (a BYU fan) was in attendance. Here’s part of her status update after the loss.

I may have been a Cougar on Ute trurf, but I am also a human being. I had men, women, and even a seven year old boy spit on me. I was told I wasn’t good enough to walk on the sidewalk, sworn at, laughed at, and had smoke blown in my face.

I haven’t had the chance yet to talk to her to get the whole story. I’d like to think it wasn’t as harsh as that sounds. Surely people wouldn’t spit on a girl just because she roots for a different team. I know my sister. She’s not the kind of gal to be being obnoxious at a rivalry game. This is uncalled for, and I don’t think anyone would argue that point with me.

What makes this all even more pathetic is the fact that–for almost all values, BYU and Utah fans are pretty much identical–especially to an outside observer. They are by and large Mormon. They live in the same towns as each other. Drive the same cars. Make the same money. Share the same skin color. Typically have the same political views. Yes, you might get some anti-Mormon sentiment among some Utah fans, but I don’t think that’s the basis of the rivalry.

The one thing that makes these two groups of people stand apart is that half of them like to cheer for the Cougars on Saturday, and half of them cheer for the Utes.

Of course, if you actually ask the fans of one team about the fans of the other team, you get a much different story. “BYU fans are ___________.” “Utah fans always ____________.” Let me fill in the blanks with some descriptions I’ve heard lobbed at each side over the years.

“BYU fans are all so holier-than-thou. They’re a bunch of arrogant imbeciles.”

“Utah fans are nothing but a bunch of drunk frontrunners. When their team is doing well, they care, but as soon as the team’s doing poorly, they don’t.”

I wrote a post after last year’s loss, in which I wondered why Utah fans were so dead set against BYU sports. And I heard some very valid answers. But what I *don’t* understand, and what I doubt anyone is going to be able to justify to me, is why fans hate other fans. Why they make generalized statements like the ones I just threw out there above this paragraph.

Because here’s the fact: people are uniform. They’re always people. Take a group of anybody, and you’re going to have some geniuses, some idiots, some jerks, some gentlemen–some of any description you want to look for. People are people.

Are some BYU fans full of themselves? You bet. So are some Utah fans. Are some Utah fans drunk frontrunners? You bet. So are some BYU fans, no doubt (and highly ironically).

When people start making broad generalizations about another group of people, that smacks strongly of racism.

LET ME BE PERFECTLY CLEAR: I am not likening the problems of being a BYU or Utah fan to the situation dealt with by minority groups. What I *am* saying is that it seems to me a lot of the same issues are involved in both areas, just on drastically different scale.

What it seems to come down to is an inherent belief that anything “Other” is “Worse.” This extends beyond sports rivalries into any number of other areas. Politics and religion are biggies, too. I’m friends with Republicans and Democrats on Facebook and Twitter. The amount of bile that’s spewed both ways is deplorable. As a Mormon, the arguments I’ve heard made about Mormons in general are just depressing.

It seems like it’s more justified or acceptable to dismiss another category of people (Republicans, Mormons, Utah fans, etc.) if they’re part of that category because of some voluntary choice. If it’s a choice people make, then it’s just fine to call them stupid or ignorant or _______ because they made that choice.

But I’m sorry, that just doesn’t hold water with me. Because again, people are people. Do you have some Republicans who just mindlessly believe what Glenn Beck or whoever is telling them? Sure. But you have some Democrats who do the same thing (just not with Glenn Beck). Do you have some Mormons who are total space cadets? You betcha. But space cadets can be found among all races, creeds, and nations.

The fact is that most people make the decisions they make, believe the things they believe, because they’ve weighed things out in their minds and made what seems to them as the best possible choice. I don’t know anyone personally who said, “I know I’m about to do something really stupid, and which ‘ll always regret, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

Here’s a tip, folks–if you’re gearing up to dismiss *any* group of people with a blanket statement that you believe covers the majority of that group, then you’re out of line. And you’re wrong to do it.

Why can’t we just learn to evaluate people by the decisions and actions they make on an individual level?

Maybe it’s because we like to justify our own decisions and opinions. We like to be right. And in some cases (sports, for example), if another person is right, then that must mean we’re wrong. We’re threatened by the idea that there might not *be* a right. Or maybe it’s because in situations like politics, if enough people believe something you believe is wrong, then you could well be out of luck come November.

I’ve been a missionary–an official representative of a church, tasked with talking to strangers about that church. I didn’t do it in an argumentative fashion (though I know there are missionaries who do). My goal was simply to inform people who were interested in listening–tell them what I believed and why. If they were still interested and wanted to learn more, super. If they weren’t, at least they (hopefully) no longer thought Mormons were the same as Amish (a popularly held belief in Germany, where (to the best of my understanding) the Harrison Ford movie “Witness” had translated “Amish” as “Mormon” in the German version. Thanks, Harrison.) I wasn’t more or less “right” in my beliefs based on how many people I got to join the church.

Anyway. This post has gone on long enough, and I don’t want to get it all weighed down with a religious debate. But it’s been weighing on my mind ever since I saw my sister’s status update. If you’re about to cast judgement on a person you’ve never met based on anything about them you’ve heard, maybe you should question why you’re doing that. If you’re going to write a pithy post on Facebook accusing a group of being stupid, or bigoted, or greedy, or ________, realize that if you have a large number of friends, chances are some of those friends belong to the group you’re about to call names.

We’re a diverse bunch. Let’s celebrate that.

And as for rivalries? I’m all for them. I love some good competitions and hard-fought games. I’m all for being mad at the other team. Being frustrated with how they play the game. Getting upset at how the refs are favoring them all the time. That’s all part of the game.

But hating the other fans because they’re doing THE EXACT SAME THING YOU’RE DOING, just from the other side of the field?

Get over yourselves, people.

It just doesn’t matter.

6 thoughts on “On Racism, Rivalries, Idiots, and Bill Murray”

  1. The sports analogy is right on. I travel in atheist circles and I get pretty disgusted with the lack of tolerance and the glut of condescension in the atheist community. I don’t believe most of any church’s teachings, but I’m delighted that someone can find happiness and a way of life they love in what they believe. It’s the same mentality that allows people to condemn the death of innocent Americans, yet consider Afghan civilian casualties just the price of war.

    I particularly like this:

    “The fact is that most people make the decisions they make, believe the things they believe, because they’ve weighed things out in their minds and made what seems to them as the best possible choice.”

    If we can understand that everyone makes decisions on what they imagine to be factual information, then we can begin to have a dialogue with each other that doesn’t end up as spewed talking points. And if we can take one step further and accept each other for those differences, we take grand strides towards tearing down the artificial barriers of ideology in this country (well, everywhere). It’s not easy to do, especially when some beliefs interfere directly with the livelihood of the people involved. But it’s the only place we can really start.

  2. Love the Bill Murray speech. For anyone interested, here’s what I posted on a message board about what happened to Emma (Bryce’s sister) and me before the game:

    “On the walk in to the game my 18 year old daughter and I chatted with several Ute fans that were really nice. Then, at the stadium, it was so crowded that we decided to take the long way around to the south side where our seats were. Big mistake. We had to swim upstream on a crowded sidewalk filled with fans who were clearly arriving from the tailgate parties on Guardsman Way. I could deal with the loud boos and vulgar comments when they saw our BYU gear, but a couple of adults and a young boy actually spit on my daughter.”

    To me, it’s clear that alcohol contributed to the poor behavior. I have no doubt that the people that spat on Emma thought they were being uproariously funny. We all know that people do things under the influence of alcohol that they wouldn’t do otherwise. So there’s another aspect of this sports rivalry thing that can make things even uglier.

  3. Thanks for the comments, all.

    Neon–Very well put. I think life would be so much easier if more people tried to improve their ability to respect another person’s opinion, even if they vehemently disagree with it.

    Dad–So sad that it actually happened. Just ridiculous.

  4. I think sometimes people use intoxication as an excuse to do stupid (and in this case, mean) things. Alcohol lessens your inhibitions, but you have to be the type of person who finds spitting on other people funny in the first place, in order to do it when you’re drunk. In other words, the problem is the mindset that you’re pointing towards, Bryce, not the alcohol itself.

    (This reads like I’m trying to defend alcohol, but really I’m just agreeing with your point. But in the interest of full disclosure and to prove your point about people of all kinds on both sides, I should point out that I had two bottles of ale while watching the game, and I was cheering for BYU. But I did not spit on any Utah fans, nor would I have if there had been any in my house.)

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